Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 27 2011

Vandalism

For a week, I’ve done nothing but read, watch movies, and play with my niece & nephew. It’s been a delicious week, but it’s  always a slap in the face trying to come back to work after completely forgetting that I’m a teacher.

Last night, I had the strangest urge to be almost anything but my current self. I wanted to have the same values and beliefs I have now, but I wanted to be angry and bitter about them. I wanted to wear scary makeup, shave my head, yell and swear a lot, break things, spray paint public spaces and be everything BUT a responsible adult.
I didn’t do anything, of course, other than eat sushi and watch another movie (though it was an angry activist movie…). But I do feel a little shudder of leftover rebellion.

The longer I spend in TFA, the more I wonder whether what we’re doing isn’t just a little bit silly. It seems obvious to me that the best part of TFA is the conviction it breeds in CMs and alumni, and the worst part is the fact that on average, CMs are working our asses off to become not-really-all-that-remarkable teachers. I don’t think my two years are inching America any closer to One Day—even if I feel like TFA as an organization (as an alumni factory, or a force in the education scene) might be.

We hear often that fixing education is going to require completely “Rethinking Schools”—but I often wonder whether we should say “Rethinking Teaching” instead (By this, I mean that I don’t think the traditional classroom setup or standards or standardized tests are hurting very much, but I do think teachers are almost completely incapacitated and unable to make these pieces of education work for kids). If that’s the case, though, what the hell am I doing within the existing system? Proving that I can do this job almost as well as all those education majors can? Sometimes it feels like that’s what we’re here for.

I want to work for change alongside TFA people. But I don’t know if I want to spend my energy plugging okay teachers into a system that chews them up and spits them out, hoping for the day when someone comes up with a better idea and there are enough alumni and other like-minded souls around to support it.

Not sure exactly how this relates to my sudden urge to deface public property with graphic messages about inequality in education. Maybe because I feel like that way I could at least point a bold finger at the problem, instead of working myself to the bone but missing the point?

13 Responses

  1. els

    Get.out.of.my.head. Seriously, this entire post is exactly what I’ve been thinking lately. Reality really is a slap in the face.

    I haven’t really talked about closing the achievement gap since about the 3rd day of Institute. What I’m hoping to do is give my kids hope and empowering them to make a better life for themselves, but I don’t think I’ll change any statistics.

  2. This. All of it.

  3. hill

    amen, amen, amen.

  4. Kayla

    We should seriously stay connected via email sometime. Our thoughts/posts/beliefs are so similar.

  5. Adrilicious

    I totally agree (which as an aside, is why I think TFA is more part of the problem than the solution). I’m like pretty good at this teaching thing – but so what? It really isn’t working and the vision of TFA doesn’t match the reality of the situation. The fact is: good teaching isn’t enough and it won’t / hasn’t gotten the job done. Thus TFA’s 21 year presence and 0 lasting impact on education. Someone (or rather a group of someones) has to do something radically different, and it’s a shame that a classroom can’t be that space.

    ps – yours in the only TFA blog I read. I will email you the link to my new blog if you’d like – just drop me a line.

  6. ohteaching

    Agreed! Like reading your posts :)

  7. Gary Rubinstein

    You’re awesome. But with such a defeatist attitude, you’ll never be a TFA staff member.

    • Wess

      I’m gonna call it a defeatist mood. “Attitude” sounds so permanent.

  8. Alana

    Did we have a late night conversation I am not aware of? I have been known to randomly talk in my sleep. This is EXACTLY how I have been feeling the last two days. Loved this.

  9. Kurt (Community Manager)

    Congratulations! You post has been featured on the Teach For Us homepage.

  10. Did you read the recent posts and my comments on Gary’s blog? It was on the guest post about how TFA is hurting a district and I wrote about how I thought TFA might be net positive. It sounds like you are echoing some of that discussion. I see exactly what you mean.
    And I second the quest to make teaching easier!
    Cameron

  11. G

    Word.

    PS – Having sushi with you was fun…I must have the sake next time!

  12. anne2011

    I enjoyed reading your post! I definitely connected with your ideas about “working our asses off to become not-really-all-that-remarkable teachers”…as I talk to more and more CMs, this is a pretty common trend.

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